San Francisco got Tiger Face’d last weekend with a double dose of Marco Benevento’s first shows in the city proper since December 2011. Anyone who has seen him knows that Marco always puts on a clinic of infectious grooves, top notch musicianship, and circuit bent wizardy, all while maintaining an ear-to-ear grin. Needless to say, I was excited by the opportunity to see Marco play minutes from my front door after gracing Oakland and Marin with his presence in 2012. However, the show on Saturday night at the Independent carried the standard setlist with a Reed Mathis sit-in(!), a few ramblings, and some uninspired jams (for Marco) that left me a little puzzled and unimpressed. Thankfully Marco more than made up for that with a special guest-laden Monday night show at the Boom Boom Room.
The fact that The Boom Boom Room’s secret show on Monday might be Marco never even crossed my mind — despite the advertised hint that the act was from New York. Once the announcement was made from the stage on Saturday, it was all too obvious. At first I was hesitant to head out on a work-week Monday night after a jam-packed weekend and having just caught Marco, but the chance to see him in such an intimate environment (and at my favorite after midnight haunt taboot) proved to be too irresistible. I found myself walking to the Boom Boom Room and stepping in the door just as the curtain was raising on the first set around 10:15.
While not quite sold out, the place was packed for a Monday night. Marco opened with one of the more agressive tracks off of his new album, “Escape Horse”. Early highlights included a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” which did a quick segue into Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”, and a take on Sleigh Bell’s “Infinity Guitars”, during which Andy Borger was using four drumsticks for most of the tune. Considering none of these selections had been played at The Independent, I had a feeling we were in for a good night of carefully curated tunes. “Greenpoint”, “The Real Morning Party” and the always welcome Knife cover of “Heartbeats” wrapped up the first set, and the announcer promised “special guests” for the second…
Sure enough, the real heat came in the second set. Marco thanked us all for coming out on a Monday and staying up late with him on a work night. In one of many ramblings over the weekend, Marco started chanting the phrase “a little bit of work, a little bit of play”, while Eddie Roberts hopped up on stage and strapped on his guitar for a rollicking rendition of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”. I’d never seen Marco attempt this one (or anyone else, for that matter) so this was a real treat. Using the foundation of the song as a launchpad, both Eddie & Marco took extended solos and whipped the crowd into a frenzy, no one caring or even thinking about how rough the next morning might be.
The next thing you know, Wu-Tang Clan hanger on Killah Priest hopped on stage for a quick medley of Wu-Tang classics like “C.R.E.A.M.” and some freestyling. This half-hour segment with Eddie on stage was the clear highlight of the show, as it’s rare to see Marco’s trio invite a guitarist up on stage, and one as talented as Eddie Roberts at that. “This Is How It Goes” and the obligatory “Fearless > Benny & the Jets > Fearless” made an appearance to close out the night. Even though it was well after 1 am, the venue was still pretty packed, and everyone who remained to the very end was getting down as if their life depended on it. I headed home in a daze, very content that I had made the decision to catch this show. As a good friend and co-editor of this site once observed, no one remembers that time they got a good night’s rest 20 years later, but a stellar concert? You better believe it.
Marco also mentioned that on their day off between the two San Francisco shows that the band had begun to lay down some initial recordings for what will eventually become their next album. Here’s hoping that the wait for the next batch of songs isn’t too long.